By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor
For the second time in less than a month, an Ecuadorean immigrant was savagely attacked in New York by men shouting anti-Hispanic slurs. Once again, as with the death a month ago of Marcelo Lucero, the pain was felt among Hispanics in the United States and in faraway South America. The attack that left José Sucuzhañay brain-dead seems to confirm the rise in hate crimes pro-immigration advocates have been warning about since Lucero’s passing.
José and his brother Romel Sucuzhañay were attacked on a Brooklyn street last weekend by three men who allegedly shouted anti-Hispanic and anti-gay slurs while beating them with a bottle and a baseball bat. The brothers had been walking with their arms around each other.
José, 31, was declared brain-dead Tuesday at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, although his family was keeping him on life support until his parents and two children arrived from Ecuador.
“Today my brother is the victim, but tomorrow it could be your brother, your mother, your father,” another sibling, Diego Sucuzhañay, said Tuesday at a press conference outside the hospital.
According to the New York Daily News,
Diego said he had been talking with his parents in Ecuador by phone, telling them Jose “was okay.” But, he said, now “it’s time to tell them the truth.”
Thousands of miles away, Mercedes Quintuña, the Sucuzhañays’ mother, also spoke to the press.
“I think my family has given that country a lot. We’re honest people whose only purpose has been to work without harming anyone,” she told Ecuadorean newspaper El Tiempo at her home in Cuenca. “What they’ve done to my children is not fair. I hope justice will punish them, otherwise God will.”
Quintuña had twelve children. Following a pattern common among Ecuadorean families, six of them are today in the United States — and only two are legal immigrants.
The attack happened a month after Lucero, another Ecuadorean immigrant, was killed on Long Island by a group of youngsters who set out to attack “a Mexican.”
Quintuña told El Tiempo that José migrated to the U.S. nine years ago and his wife Amada later joined him. Their kids, Bryan and Johanna, have been in the care of their grandmother for the last two years. Impre.com reported José sent his mother money every month for her arthritis treatment and his kids’ needs.
The Sucuzhañay family is “a typical (Ecuadorean) family of migrants,” El Tiempo said. Quintuña’s husband, Hidalgo, had been the first to go to the U.S., and eight of their children have lived there at some point.
Quintuña was hoping to obtain U.S. visas on humanitarian grounds to be able to travel to New York with her husband and José’s children.
Police have offered $22,000 for information on the attackers, and a couple of community activists added $5,000 to the reward.
The second attack against an Ecuadorean in such a short time prompted a statement from the South American country’s government, which condemned the crime and expressed concern for “an increase in xenophobia” in the U.S., according to Agence France Presse. The Ecuadorean consul in New York, Pablo Bonifaz, announced he would meet Wednesday with Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, El Diario reported.
Bonifaz told The Associated Press he didn’t think Ecuadoreans in particular are being targeted.
“This is not a crime wave against Ecuadoreans,” he said. “It’s a lamentable coincidence. But, indeed, crimes are taking place against the Latino community and other types of immigrant communities.”
Just two weeks ago, after Lucero’s death, civil rights leaders assembled at a press conference in Washington D.C. to condemn a rise in hate crimes after President-elect Barack Obama’s electoral victory. Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) said, “Hate did not win the election, but it has certainly reared its head in local communities across the country.”
On Wednesday, a group of pro-immigrant New York organization released a statement condemning the crime, which, according to police, was committed by three black men. Signed by the New York Immigration Coalition, the NAACP New York State Conference – Metropolitan Council, the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, Make the Road New York, the Rockland Immigration Coalition, and the Center for Social Inclusion, the text said,
In recent years, New York’s African American and immigrant communities have come together to build closer ties and work toward shared solutions for the challenges we face.
Tragic events such as this serve to bring renewed urgency to the need to continue building those bridges between our communities, and to promote a sense of shared understanding and common purpose in this, the most diverse city in the world.
In the face of this new attack on a New York area Hispanic, Cuban-born New York Daily News columnist Albor Ruiz summed up the feelings of many:
(The) attack is tragic proof that for an alarming number of people, it is open season on Hispanics.
The reasons — as we have said before — are clear: The climate created by paramilitary raids that treat workers and families like criminals; the unconscionable spreading of lies and distortions by some politicians and media personalities that dehumanize immigrants, and the growing climate of hate surrounding the immigration debate have proven to be an ideal breeding ground for racism.